WHY hotel was a hot spring hotel in the northeast of Beijing suburb called Peking Backyard, which used to be an agritainment style hotel with cartoon-themed rooms. Those rooms were built in a fast, random way without blueprint and foundation, so that the size were different. The clients hoped we could do some renovation to the existing 20+ rooms, and added a new building with approximately 7 standard rooms with their private outdoor jacuzzi in the existing 300 sq. meter parking area, while keeping the cartoon theme.
The clients are a group of courageous and daring young people in their early 30s. We soon became friends who could speak out our thoughts directly during our communication. Soon after some sites visiting and idea exchanges, we decided to abandon the cartoon theme and change PB into a smart and design-focused boutique hotel surrounded by bamboo grove.
At the initial stage, our design process of the addition construction did not go smoothly. The site is very tight to fit 7 standard rooms each with a private jaccuzi. On the other hand, the new construction shall serve the advertising purpose with a rather striking visual image. Therefore, it would be an easier way to design a single building covered by an expressive roof, with 7 rooms aligned side by side. However, I was full of doubts about this direction.
On the aspect of architectural function, each private room shall have no direct interaction with other rooms. I hope the independence can be exhibited by the architectural form. When I was standing at the site where there was a pond, I tried to visualize the future new hotel. I believed what was suitable for such a limited and enclosed space was small houses scattered amid the bamboo grove.
We first did strict logical analysis, separating the basic function spaces for each standard room including bedroom space, toilet space, private outdoor jaccuzi and space for meditation into different standard blocks with the most economically appropriate size. At the same time, we carefully studied the physical condition of the existing plots, including sunlight conditions and its relationship with the surrounding buildings. Using the way of MAPPING, we did a series of graphic analysis on human behavior and the route people choose while walking on the site. After all this, I made a rather irrational design process. I put all these blocks randomly in a three dimension with the aim of exhibiting my intuitive feeling about the site.
Our design team, made a lot of optimization and concretion work according to the technological, material, and operational needs. Then based on our design, our bamboo steel engineers made a structure model and sent it in the form of many datasheets to their factory in Szechuan province for production. Eventually, the composing parts were transported to Beijing and were precisely assembled into those seemingly random building masses.
When we saw the completed work, we found those seemingly random spaces amid the blocks were full of possibilities. In fact, this is what our firm has been studying all these years: the suffused space. It’s shapeless but omnipresent and has different interactions with different people inside. As the Diamond Sutra says, if all forms are seen as immaterial, the Tathagata will be perceived. In architecture, eventually there will be a tangible building body, but I hope that this tangible building is just a form of existence through which we can offer invisible “suffused space”, which is what we deem as the soul and spirit of the space.
On the aspect of landscape design, we made two types of routes, a path surrounding the central public area, and lanes amid the bamboo grove leading to each independent courtyard. These seemingly random lanes were in fact a 2-month elaboration by our design team. In the central public area, there is a hot spring pool with water vapor all year round. In the bamboo grove, there is a sprayer system producing mist to maintain the humidity for the plant. Walking amid the bamboo grove, our guests won’t see the massing of our architecture but only the mist and some indistinct houses behind the bamboos. Their view will become clear when they reach the hot spring pool. It’s an experience like what a famous ancient Chinese author Zongyuan LIU wrote in his prose, Travel Notes of Little Stone Pond, “across the bamboo grove, I heard the sound of water”. In the middle of the yard, the guests will also see a wave-shaped enclosure made of vertical bamboo steel planks, just like an extension of the bamboo grove. From bamboos to the bamboo steel fences, from sparse to dense, we created a gradual transition of interface.
We hope to achieve private enclosure and division of functions through a transformational way rather than a direct way of experience. Similarly, we added electric glass on the windows, doors, and skylight in the rooms. The guests can choose their own visual interaction with the outside by adjusting the level of transparency of the glass.
We have always been trying to make our design in a filmic way in both real practices and academic studies. We design moods we desire, routes full of changes, scenes that arouse sentiment, and various interesting real stories produced naturally with different actors.
The way we would like to describe the scene of WHY hotel is like that Yuanming TAO (AD352-AD427), a famous ancient poet, used in “The Peach Colony” : Walking along the path with trees rustling, water rippling, and tree shadows dancing, the guest feels as though the buildings became indistinct among the bamboo leaves. After a turn, there is a pond with a thin and delicate mist hovering above the spring water.
The aim of our design is the harmony of architecture, landscape, and the participants.